From the Editor’s Desk
 
September 1st, 2004

 

by Janet Arden, Editor September-October 2004

You asked for trends!

One of the top two things you told us in the recent Reader Survey is that you want to learn more about trends in tile. This month TileDealer takes a look at one of the hottest tile trends-large format-from a number of different sides, including design, installation, and tools. You and your customers may love the look, but making large format work successfully requires special considerations.

Large format tile is the result of technology. In this month’s Designer Briefing, consultant Patti Fasan points out the technical gains that have made large format possible and the design options it offers. Of course, the size and weight of large format pose special installation challenges. See the Installation Briefing for this side of the topic. Finally, Dave Gobis gives us the lowdown on tools, many of them designed or adapted to accommodate large format tile. The bottom line for Dave and for the distributors we talked to who sell tools is that the right tool can make any tile job faster, better, and safer.

Trends, part 2

Cersaie – the excitement of new offerings from this leading international marketplace-is just around the corner. TileDealer recently talked One-on-One with Enzo Mularoni, CEO of the DelConca-Faetano-Pastorelli Group, vice president of Assopiastrelle, and a member of the Coverings Board of Directors, to learn about his expectations for Cersaie. Read about what he has to say about the over 600 million square meters of ceramic tile, worth about $6.2 billion manufactured annually in Italy.

What do you think?

We’d like to hear what your experience is with large format tile, so we’ve posted a survey at www.tiledealer.org, asking how it fits in your business and inviting your comments. Are you selling more of it this year than last year? Is it outselling any other categories? Are you selling it in combination with related designs? If you see a different trend in the choices your customers are making, we’d like to hear from you about that, too. Please submit your comments on the survey form or e-mail me at editor@tiledealer.org. We’ll report on them in subsequent issues of TileDealer.

Last but not least

By now you may have noticed that TileDealer also invites your comments on articles throughout the magazine. Do this through the website, www.tiledealer.org or by writing me, editor@tiledealer.org. We look forward to hearing from you.


New Tools for a New Era
 
September 1st, 2004

 

by David Gobis September-October 2004

Selling the right tool is a win-win-win. The installer benefits by making a single investment that pays dividends with every job. You benefit with a profitable product line and a satisfied customer. Ultimately the consumer-and the industry-benefit from a job well done.

Good tools used correctly make any installation easier, safer, more professional and more profitable.

We have good news and we have bad news. The good news is ceramic tile continues to grow in popularity. New formats, finishes and designs have dramatically expanded the marketplace. So, what is the bad news? Those new formats, finishes and designs can be a challenge to install. At the same time, the customer expects the install to be faster, better, and cheaper. Can’t be done you say? Maybe your installer just needs the right tools for the job!

Today’s tools can make short work of the most challenging tile and job conditions. Those of us who are real tool junkies are always willing to try something new. The rest of us hate change. Buying anything beyond a new trowel or float is a difficult decision. But the distributor who takes the time to acquire knowledge about a tool, who can talk about what tool works with what material, and who sells professional-grade tools, can develop loyal customers. I thought we might explore how you can make the installer’s life easier and more profitable, while adding to your own bottom line. And develop a loyal customer in the process.

Sorting out the various claims made by tool manufacturers is challenging. There is a good, better, and best. Installers should really only consider the best. The installer’s tools need to be treated as an investment, not an expense.

I remember bragging to the manufacturer that I had been using the same wet saw-purchased from him-for 30 years. He may have been disappointed that my investment failed to produce any income beyond the sale of a few switches and table wheels during the course of my ownership. However, I did become a walking testimonial for the value of his product. I don’t know how many of that manufacturer’s saws I have sold, but I have been doing it for many years. This equipment has provided untold returns on the investment and this is the way you can sell quality equipment.

Installers don’t necessarily think in terms such as return on investment. So if you’re selling tools, part of your job is to teach them this value. In these times of critical qualified labor availability, the right choice of tools is like adding another person to the payroll without the associated burden.

Cutting tile

As an employer or subcontractor one of my pet peeves was always having everyone doing their cuts on the wet saw. Depending on where your saw is located, it may take five minutes or more for one cut. Add up the cost of that time over the course of the week. You will find we are talking about a substantial sum. If you really want to scare yourself, multiply it by workweeks in a year! Yikes!

The higher quality cutting boards or snap cutters available today will do straight cuts through most porcelains on the market, regardless of size. Using a cutter like the one shown here, we have encountered only a few instances where we could not get a decent straight cut even on porcelain tile. Such cutters may cost upwards of $300, but are well worth the investment. They allow for angle cuts, as well using a fixed stop.

If the installer is only going to buy one cutter, he should buy a big one. It may be more cumbersome to carry around, but when he is installing large-format, he will thank you.

For those who need a wet saw, the best value is a quality tool. Today’s large-format tile sizes make it unwise to consider anything less than a saw capable of an 18-inch straight cut. A 24-inch capability would be better.

When it comes to motors, bigger is also better. My 1½ HP 10-inch saw is 30 years old and still has the original motor. One of the differences in motor cost is whether it has a continuous or intermittent duty rating. A 1 to ¾ HP motor is acceptable, but has to work much harder and cuts slower. Obviously, if an installer’s primary work does not include large tile, a smaller motor may be appropriate. But anything less than ¾ HP should be considered disposable when using it for floor tile on a regular basis.

Available accessories like table extensions and the availability of replacement parts are important considerations in selecting a saw. Switches wear out, tables may need to be replaced or have new bearings installed. Pay close attention to the parts availability of the saws you are selling. If everything is one component and welded or forged together, repairs later could be impossible. No installer wants to replace a major tool because one component failed.

This quality thing may be getting old, but we can give it a new perspective talking about cutting blades. I have found it very difficult to get the cuts I want in all materials with one blade. We have always used several, a regular tile blade and a porcelain blade. Just last week we made numerous chip free cuts on a glazed porcelain tile. The cost of that premium blade was well worth it! If an installer does a lot of quarry tile work, a fast and smooth cutting blade is available for that purpose.

Use your tool expertise to educate your customers about maintenance. Make your customers aware they need to clean the blade occasionally with either a dressing stick or a piece of concrete block. After several passes, the blade will be cutting like new; this is especially helpful when cutting soft stone. You may lose that sale, but make a friend.

Diamond drill kits are available from many manufacturers and are essential for cutting tile around a faucet or showerhead. The jigs offered in the kits provide more safety and longer bit life by providing a stable means of drilling small to medium size holes in the middle of a tile.

A diamond band saw will cut a smooth radius tile, porcelain tile, and natural stones effortlessly. The throat is adjustable for varying material thicknesses.

A laser level is a valuable new tool. The best ones are self-leveling and give a plumb line, level line, or combination of the two on either the floor or wall. No more snapping and moving lines to get that layout just right. These levels take some getting used to. When we purchased our first one, it sat around the shop quite a bit. Little by little, it began to see use. Within six months we bought two more; after a year, we had six.

Laser levels are also handy for estimators to show the customer the outlet locations on walls and out of square conditions, thus avoiding problems later when installation begins.

Cleaning up

How long does it take to grout and clean 2000 square feet? The power grout and sponge machine can do the job and spare sore knees or dried out hands. This equipment is also available from several manufacturers. The machines work on both cement and epoxy grouts, leaving the surface streak free. It only takes a few decent size epoxy or cement grout jobs to pay for the investment in these work savers. Everyone I have met willing to make the investment in this equipment is now aggressively looking for profitable epoxy jobs and leaving the competition behind.

These are only a few of the great time saving devices that allow your customers to work faster, better, and-in some cases-safer. One of the best benefits, however, is that once installers make the investment in good or labor saving equipment, the expense is in a large part pretty much over. The right tools never ask for wages, benefits, or vacation. They don’t call in sick either. With the shortage of quality labor and the competitive nature of the installation business, maybe it is time for your installers to invest in equipment that can make them faster, better, and more profitable.

David M. Gobis, a 3rd generation tile setter, is the Executive Director of the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation. He has been in the trade for over 30 years and owned a successful contracting business many years prior to his current position. Mr. Gobis is a member of the NTCA Technical Committee, ANSI A108 and TCA Handbook committees in addition to being a speaker at many industry events. He can be reached at 864-222-2131 or dave@tileschool.org. © 2004 Dave Gobis, Ceramic Tile Education Foundation

Special thanks to Q.E.P. Company, Inc. for providing product images for the magazine cover.

 

Tools that are Selling
TileDealer talked to some distributors who sell tools, just to see what’s selling right now.

Mike Firkins, Tile Wholesaler, said he and his customers are impressed with a new rail saw in which the moving parts sit above the water, saving service and replacement and extending the lifetime of the unit. Both Paul Mudd at Unique Tile and Jerry Fabian at Tile Distributors of America said their current best sellers include a rail saw with a tilt capability to cut angles and miters. It’s especially good for large format materials.

Mudd says installers doing a lot of large format work are also raving about a large format trowel with large u-notches alternating with smaller notches. Users say they are getting great coverage. Firkins says ergonomically-handled floats and trowels are popular because they prevent hand and arm fatigue. He also says a new, spring-loaded hand cutter that applies pressure to both the top and the bottom of the tile is especially useful for cutting residential and commercial porcelain tiles. The real advantage, according to Firkins, is that the installer can keep the cutter at his side, saving trips to the wet saw.

Fabian says some installers are returning to simpler hand-cutters for large format work. It gives them more control. The saw (already noted in the main article) that cuts a smooth radius is also useful with large formats.

What advice do these successful tool salesmen offer?

  • Offer high and low end tools. Most contractors prefer professional grade tools.
  • Understand what the contractor needs and speak his language.
  • Tools on a shelf won’t sell themselves. Understand how to use them yourself.

Designer Briefing: Maximizing design potential with large format No longer your mother’s 6- by 6-inch white squares, today’s large format tiles re-define design.
 
September 1st, 2004

 

By Patti Fasan September-October 2004

Then: form followed function

In the late 80s wall tile was 6- by 6- or 6- by 8-inches in solid colors or decorated with whimsical serigraph designs such as flowers and fruit and used as protection from water, around the tub or shower. Floor tile was equally unpopular-a few square feet of unglazed, brown quarry tile used at the back entry. Utilitarian in purpose, brown toned quarry tile was either six-inch square or the classic four by eight inch brick format. Higher end homes occasionally selected wall tile for kitchen counters or backsplashes or tiled the main bath or the kitchen floor using a glazed “fashion” tile. Durability, not fashion drove most choices.

In the 90s, however, research and development revolutionized the potential of ceramic tile. Technology placed a dizzying array of designs in the hands of mainstream consumers. The days of flat, non-dimensional tile with a single repetitive image were over.

Now: high function & high fashion by design

Today ceramic decorating techniques include: roto-drum screening; matt textures; raised and bas-relief molds; luster and metallic glazes; tumbling; polishing; and rectification. Tile moved into the world of high fashion. Mass production replicated the look of hand artistry while reducing the cost. Tile came out from behind the shower curtain and went from the back hall to the front foyer. Even modestly priced homes began to incorporate and feature ceramic tile in more areas.

Buoyed by consumer acceptance, manufacturers competed for market share by introducing newly inspired programs annually. Size and shape defined high quality, high fashion ceramic programs. The new screens printed larger, more intricate patterns. Utilizing the maximum extent of the screen gave each tile more variation, fluidity and therefore a more realistic stone appearance. Along with the beauty of the design on large tile came additional benefits the consumer quickly recognized. Large tile reduced the number of grout joints making maintenance easier, matched the size of quarried stone slab, and visually expanded the size of any room.

Large dimensional tile became an integral part of successful ceramic lines. An important element for the design community is the ability to combine tile in unique and interesting layouts reflecting the architectural details of individual spaces. For the designer, modular tile programs with a variety of sizes, shapes, trims and borders are indispensable.

Interior designers want to create subtle visual separation in areas where tiling extends throughout adjacent rooms. It is now more common for homeowners to use ceramic tile as the main flooring material. In an open concept home, tile may flow from the foyer through kitchen, family room, dining room and out onto an exterior patio. These large spaces demand a tile sized to match the scale of the space. Subtle interesting divisions between rooms can be accomplished by setting one area on a 45 degree angle; bordering square format tile with a coordinating rectangular tile; duplicating the shape of a coffered ceiling plan using a decorative accent tile; using a polished tile to define an area tiled in a matt texture or inserting a dramatic focal point such as a custom mosaic “carpet” of tile in a foyer. Technical knowledge and the ability to design with tile are what really define the ceramic tile expert.

Large format wall tile is still in its infancy. To a certain extent, the quality of general home construction has hampered its growth. Walls are more difficult and costly to plumb and level. Without a true surface, the ceramic installer magnifies any deficiency in the walls by using large format tile. Often a smaller tile is substituted to minimize the poor accuracy of the framing or drywall installation.

The benefits of selecting a ceramic over stone, especially in a bathroom, should not be sold on cost savings alone. The large format 1-foot by up to 3-foot ceramic tile produced today is virtually indistinguishable from the natural stone it is replicating. These glazed ceramic slabs are impervious, virtually stain proof and never need sealing or refinishing. The surface is unaffected by lime, rust, calcium or other mineral deposits. They are unaffected by moisture and vapor penetration that can lead to mildew or mold growth. Rectified tile has been factory cut on all sides, removing the pillowed edge, allowing a hairline grout joint and a perfectly planed surface identical to natural stone.

Although the aesthetic qualities are on par with stone, tile’s technical characteristics make it more suitable for use in any wet area installation. Several manufacturers have added even more value to specific large format rectified programs by concentrating on specialty or rare marble and natural stone designs. Rather than duplicating some of the more common marbles, these factories are producing fabulous tile mimicking lapis lazuli, book matched Verde Serpentine or other ultra expensive stones. In this case, selecting the ceramic tile format over the natural stone alternative will add substantial savings to the enhanced performance.

The last few years have likely been the most exciting period in the long history of ceramic tile production. Ceramic tile use is destined to continue with the focus on natural products, sustainable design, healthy material choices, durability, the environment and maintenance saving alternates that fit our hectic lifestyles. State of the art producers can guarantee the technical and artistic quality of their ceramic tile. For anyone in the industry, this is as good as it gets.


One-on-One with Enzo Mularoni
 
September 1st, 2004

 

By Janet Arden September-October 2004

TileDealer recently talked with Enzo Mularoni, CEO of the Del Conca-Faetano-Pastorelli Group, Vice President of Assopiastrelle, and Tiles of Italy representative on the Coverings Board of Directors, about what attendees can expect from the upcoming Cersaie 2004 exhibition, as well as Coverings 2005. Read on for his insight on the tile industry and the role he sees for the Italian manufacturing/American distribution partnership.

TileDealer: Tell us about your companies.

Mularoni: My father and I founded Ceramica del Conca 25 years ago. After taking over a small, existing company and laying down the basis for future expansion, we then took over Faetana, a company in San Marino. [Faetana] has now become the holding company for the group, followed by Ceramiche Pastorelli in January 2003. Today the Del Conca-Faetano-Pastorelli group employs over 500 people and has a year-end expected gross of $150 million, primarily thanks to exports, which-in the United States alone- will reach $40 million.

TileDealer: To what do you credit this success?

Mularoni: The willingness-from the outset-to embrace technical innovations has been essential to the continued growth of our company. From the beginning, for example, we were among the first to use a roller kiln, the use of which garnered the “Eta Award” for our plant. In the early 90s, we had faith in the development of glazed porcelain stoneware as the best solution for consumers wanting a product that was attractive but also reliable. In 2000, from the point of view of service to the distributors, we invested heavily in finding the most efficient way to ship small consignments safely.

TileDealer: How big is the marketplace for Italian tile?

Mularoni: During 2003 the Italian tile industry produced over 600 million square meters, with an equivalent value of $6.2 billion. These figures have essentially remained stable since 2002. Our industry has an outstanding appetite for exporting. Last year we exported 72-percent of our product, which is not only an industry record, but also an indication of just how highly the world values Ceramic Tiles of Italy. From the more than 180 countries with which we maintain commercial relationships, the three most significant are the United States, France and Germany. The first two [countries] order approximately 70 million square meters and the third approximately 56 million square meters.

TileDealer: What do you expect to see in terms of product at Cersaie 2004? What new materials, finishes or processes will be shown for the first time?

Mularoni: Cersaie is very much like the largest, most comprehensive international shop window for ceramic tiles and bathroom furnishings. More than 1,000 exhibitors-some 500 who are from the tile industry-traditionally take advantage of this occasion to present their new offerings. I think this year, as usual, we will see new directions in aesthetics as well as functionality, but specifically in the areas of porcelain stoneware; single-firing, clinker and double-firing tiles; surface effects; and size. I think that this year, more than ever we can expect to see truly new innovations.

TileDealer: What new design directions do you anticipate?

Mularoni: If up until a few years ago the main trends have been either minimalist or had a rustic look, then today we are moving toward the chromatic and the figurative. That said, I don’t think we will see one single trend emerging for this year for the simple reason that as demand for ceramic tiles grows throughout the world, we need to accommodate diverse aesthetics.

TileDealer: What should North American visitors to Cersaie look for?

Mularoni: Innovation is always a driving force at Cersaie. At Cersaie everything is avant-garde. From the newest designs to the latest in technology and applications, Cersaie is the place to exhibit the industry’s most progressive offerings. That and the breadth of representation at the show are why at least 25,000 visitors come to Bologna from all over the world. The presence of the best exhibitors from 33 countries makes it possible to get to know what’s state-of-the-art around the world, just by visiting Cersaie.

TileDealer: From a business standpoint, do you expect this market to be bigger, smaller, or the same as the 2003 event and why?

Mularoni: At an international level we are seeing an economic recovery, which should stimulate the demand for ceramic tiles even more. During this time it will be very important to understand where we can develop a stronger presence. It is evident that even the non-residential sector of the building industry could see some positive developments stemming from porcelain stoneware. We predict an overall growth with total sales of +1.9-percent this year and of +2.3-percent in 2005, mainly as a result of an increase in exportation.

TileDealer: We know the Chinese marketplace is significant. Where and how does it compete with Italian tile? Where and how much Italian tile is being sold in China?

Mularoni: Roughly two billion square meters of tile are being produced in China mainly for internal consumption. We estimate that approximately 150 million square meters of that are being exported, mostly to neighboring areas in the Far East, although some is beginning to appear on both the Atlantic coast of the United States and in Europe. The Italian tile industry and the Chinese tile industry have very different business strategies. While we place an importance on specialization and on a superior level of service, China is more concerned with low prices and standardization. Considering that until not long ago China was practically closed to the importation of luxury products made in Italy, I have to admit that today there is a significant appreciation for our tiles there. In fact, some Italian ceramics companies have even made agreements with local distributors to open single vendor sales outlets, and are looking forward to putting down deep roots there.

TileDealer: How much has the weak dollar (versus the Euro) impacted sales in this country?

Mularoni: The weak dollar has seriously reduced the margins on our sales in the United States, but the Italian tile industry is resolute in maintaining a solid trading relationship. I have been happy to notice that the distribution network has been very understanding about this difficulty in general and has accepted price increases to offset, at least partially, the exchange losses. This is an important point, because it confirms that the nature of the relationship between the Italian tile industry and American tile distribution is truly one of partnership.

TileDealer: Please tell me about your role at Coverings. What are your goals for Coverings 2005?

Mularoni: Already Coverings brings in about 30,000 visitors and is considered by many an event not to be missed, but our goals are to continue to enhance the significance of this exhibition, to expand the scope of international representation among the exhibitors, and to increase the number of visitors to what is the primary point of contact with the American market.

TileDealer: TileDealer goes to more than 10,000 dealers and distributors. What else would you like them to know about your company and the Italian tile industry?

Mularoni: For more than 30 years, the Italian tile industry and the distribution network in the United States has enjoyed a trade relationship than can only be described as the best of partnerships. In a time of rapid change, this strong foundation will serve us all well as we face these new challenges together.


Tile Partners for Humanity Ceramic tile industry accepts the challenge to deliver low-income housing.
 
September 1st, 2004

 

September-October 2004

Tiles. Setting Materials. Tools. Labor. Training. Tile Partners for Humanity (TPFH) offers a variety of avenues for industry professionals to take part in a worldwide effort to end substandard housing. There is no reason not to become part of this ongoing effort.

TPFH was established 2-½ years ago to bring the tile industry together, promote the industry and do something for charity. Gray LaFortune, Executive Director of the Ceramic Tile Institute of America and one of the TPFH founders, says that since the first TPFH build in LaGrange, Georgia, TPFH has installed close to 100,000 square feet of tile.

“This is a win-win for the industry,” says LaFortune. Manufacturers and distributors are able to donate unused materials, for a tax deduction, and promote the installation and benefits of ceramic tile at the same time.

Some might call it a win-win-win. As one of only a handful of national Habitat for Humanity affiliates, TPFH is also in the business of helping to deliver affordable home ownership to families who would otherwise not share in that dream.

(For anyone unfamiliar with it, Habitat for Humanity International is a non-profit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry. Its goal is to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness. Habitat for Humanity’s work is accomplished at the community level by independent, locally-run affiliates. Each affiliate coordinates all aspects of Habitat home building in its local area-fund raising, building site selection, partner family selection and support, house construction and mortgage servicing.)

Tile contributions are the basic ingredient in the program, and the contributions-like the Habitat builds-come in all sizes. Although many builds are one to five houses, some are as large as the 25-house build planned for Indianapolis this fall. Jason McKistry is president of the West Coast Habitat for Humanity Resource Center, a new organization that warehouses and distributes tiles to twenty-two Habitat affiliate chapters in southern California and two in Nevada. McKistry explains that this support to the affiliates leaves them more money for building houses.

Throughout the process, TPFH has also donated the labor-in addition to tile, setting materials, and tools-for installation. According to LaFortune, labor has been the hardest commodity to acquire. As a result TPFH has focused on training Habitat volunteers, many of whom have already been trained in other construction areas like framing and drywall, to install ceramic tile. The first training sessions were held this spring in Costa Mesa, California. John Aldredge and Kory Jones of Custom Building Products, Inc., led one session and LaFortune led another.

In an industry like ceramic tile, where there is a critical shortage of trained professionals, introducing Habitat volunteers and prospective homeowners to the profession opens the door to prospective installers. The tile industry also wins by showcasing a durable, easily-maintained product.

TPFH is also very much about the intangible rewards of volunteering. Gill Turner, wife of NATTCO CEO Brian Turner, says their experience working on a recent Houston build “was very fulfilling to work with volunteers and homeowners.”

NATTCO has supported TPFH since the first build in Georgia. The Turners volunteered to help in Houston to get a closer look at the whole project. As it turned out, homeowner Tracy Scoby happened to be at the site when the floor in his new kitchen was about to be tiled. With Brian turner as teacher and coach, Scoby did much of the tiling himself.

Time and again, these are the kind of stories Habitat volunteers tell. As TPFH Executive Director Allyson Fertitta says, “It’s not a hard message to sell.”

To learn more about donating materials or volunteering, go to www.tpfh.com.


Installer Briefing: Large Format Tile Installers talk about the installation requirements for popular large format tile. September-October 2004
 
September 1st, 2004

 

So how large is large? Recently, the Tile Council of America, Tile Handbook for Installing Ceramic Tile Committee agreed large unit tiles were 8-inches and larger.

Since the late 1980s, the dimensions of ceramic tiles have grown. As first 8- and then 12-inch tiles became standard, stone tile dimensions increased and ceramic tile followed suit with 16-,18- and 24-inch sizes in squares and rectangles. Technology has not yet found a limit to growing tile dimensions, so bigger will continue to be better for many end users.

Although large format tile is most often installed on floors, it’s also becoming increasingly popular on walls, countertops and fireplaces. It mimics stone at a fraction of the cost, minimizes grout, and results in a genuinely elegant look.

However, large format tiles require adaptations in setting.

Flat substrates are a must when installing large-format tile. While smaller tile units are more forgiving, larger formatted tiles require special attention to substrates. It’s impossible to install large format tile over inconsistent substrates that create peaks and valleys. The substrate should be clean, dry, flat and structurally sound prior to the installation.

Suitable substrates include, but are not limited to, exterior grade plywood, cement backer board, concrete, mortar beds, cement plaster and existing ceramic tile or stone. Detailed information from sources such as Tile Handbook for Installing Ceramic Tile and from manufacturers is available to answer specific questions.

Large format tiles require special attention to bonding the tile to the substrate. Just as tile manufactures made tiles larger, thin set mortar manufactures have increased bonding power with latex and polymer additives. The mortar manufacturer has also made medium bed mortars available. Both of these products are geared to improve bond strengths to the substrate and help support the large tile. Contractors who have been successfully installing large format tile are aware of this need and use special, thin set mortars.

One key measure must be taken during the installation and that is making sure there is adequate and sufficient bond with the substrate and the tile. This may present a problem for those who only rely on their notch trowels to accomplish this. In general, the larger the unit of tile, the more difficult it is to achieve adequate and sufficient bond.

Using the right size trowel to get the right size notch is critical. Current recommended trowels are: ¼- by ¼- by 3/8-inches for 4- to 8-inch tile; ¼- by ¼- by ½-inch for 8- to 12-inch tile and ½- by ½- by ½-inch for tile larger than 12-inches. Wet saws and cutters sized to accommodate large format tile are essential. (Editor’s note: see New Tools for a New Era in this issue for more information.)

Contracting experienced installation professionals should assure the seller and the buyer of a successful large-format installation.

TileDealer would like to thank Michael Maiuri, president, Shores Tile Co. Inc., Roseville, Michigan, Technical Committee Chair for the Tile Contractors Association of America 2004-2005; and the technical specialists at Crossville Tile for their help.


Innovations
 
September 1st, 2004

 

September-October 2004

Crossville’s Patina Metals

The Patina Metals Series from Crossville® feature a metal tile with a pleasingly “aged” exterior and a durable porcelain body. The handmade Patina Series has the look and character of an antique. Designed for use in all interior settings, the Patina Series is expected to particularly outshine other metal tiles in hospitality and residential installations, with its rustic color and depth. The Patina Series is available in two metals: Bronze Verdigris, with a greenish-black cast; and Rust Nickel Silver, with a touch of rust. Both metals are available in 4- x 4-inch and 6- x 6-inch field tile, single and double bullnose trim and bullnose corners. Decorative inserts, borders and chair rails are also offered. “Now consumers can have the appealing look of ancient metal tile with all the benefits of today’s technology,” states Jim Dougherty, Crossville’s vice president of marketing and new business development. (800-221-9093; www.crossvilleinc.com)

Geologica Luminous Panels

GranitiFiandre S.p.A. in collaboration with Martini Illuminazione S.p.A, announces a unique architectural element and lighting panel: Geologica® Luminous Panels. Transmitting light and warmth, Geologica Luminous Panels are compatible with the geometries of other GranitiFiandre products. When utilized in conjunction with Geologica® stones, they provide creative design solutions, beautiful accents and practical illumination to their environment. Designed for installation on floor, wall or ceiling surfaces, color options include Amber, White and Blue in 12×12 and 16×16 inch panels.

A stainless steel satin-finish framing surrounds the emitting structure, which is created of opalescent, tempered glass and can withstand foot traffic. The framing conceals semiconductor devices and stabilization circuitry. The panels are just 9.8 cm. thick, and use four LED’s to generate light with an average light output of 72 lumens and an average lifetime of 80,000 to 100,000 hours. Heat generated on the visible surface is negligible; while on the lower, unseen surface, the temperature does not exceed 50° C. (www.granitifiandre.com)

Cast in Questech

Questech Corporation, best known for its beautifully sculpted Questech Metal tiles, is introducing decorative stone borders and accents that are “Cast in Questech®”. The lightweight composite made with real stone can be installed and maintained just like ceramic tile. Borders and accents have “an authentic texture and color that coordinates beautifully with natural stone, porcelain and ceramic”, according to Questech’s Vice President of Sales Peter Schelle. This latest effort from Questech features new, original sculpted designs by company founder Roger Questel. “We’re known for a superior level of design, beauty and quality in metal tile”, says Questel. “I think our stone borders and accents have the same qualities, and designers and homeowners will see how they surpass anything on the market today.” Questech Stone features a breakthrough in water and stain protection. Each piece is treated with Questech Lifetime Sealer, a permanent stone sealer that is 100% waterproof, resistant to stains, and is easy to clean. The product is backed with a lifetime guarantee. The company launched two decorative stone product lines through distributors this spring. SandgateTM Stone and The Dorset CollectionTM both feature works of art that are sure to make any room more appealing. (www.questech.com.)

ILVA presents “Nevada” series in porcelain tile

Ilva S.A., the leading producer of porcelain tile, is now offering the natural landscape of Nevada in its “Nevada” porcelain tile series. Ilva has made the change from ceramic to porcelain tile since porcelain outperforms ceramic, slate, marble and even granite for years of low-maintenance looks that last. The “Nevada” series is available in four colors-”Reno,” “Sierra,” “Vegas,” and “Canyon”-that epitomize the magnificence of Nevada. All four colors are offered in 7-, 14-, and 18-inch squares sizes, each perfectly matching the shades of Nevada’s rocks and canyons. In addition to field tiles, the “Nevada” series offers Matita and Torello listellos and Real Marble decorative pieces. Specialty pieces include: sink rails, sink rail corners, quarter rounds, quarter round corners and bullnoses. “The ‘Nevada’ series accents practically any interior installation,” said Vanesa McIntosh, Ilva Export Manager. “The porcelain tile brings a comfortable feel to any room.” (305-667-7090)

Laufen introduces Cairo series

Laufen has added Cairo, a fully-glazed porcelain floor, wall and countertop tile that offers the look, feel and texture of natural stone. Cairo adds a new dimension for architects and homeowners who want to carry the beauty of porcelain stone indoors. Because it is stain- and frost-proof, it can be used in outdoor installations. Cairo’s high shade variation enhances the five earthy colors: Ancient Stone, Copper, Graystone, Sand and Cinnabar. Trim options include borders, insert/corners, quarter round, listel and v-cap. Cairo is ideal for medium to heavy traffic areas, because it is easy to clean and maintain as well as scratch and stain resistant. It’s also a top performer in commercial environment. Cairo has a coefficient of friction higher than 0.60. (www.laufen.com)


Industry Insights
 
September 1st, 2004

 

September-October 2004

Stone named VP at World Sales Group

Jerry Stone accepted the position of Vice President with World Sales Group. Stone, an industry veteran and former executive with American Marazzi Tile and sales manager with Atlas Concorde, will lead the company’s sales efforts throughout North America concentrating on the New World Tile, Ceramics, Inc. and Terra Green Ceramics brands. His knowledge and experience in the flooring industry make him perfect for this position.

Hamby joins Bonsal American Company

Jon Hamby has joined the Bonsal American Company as area sales manager for a territory including Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Director of Marketing Kevin McFadden said, “Bonsal is counting on Jon to be instrumental in making our territorial expansion, into this new market, a success for our Tile Setting Products.” Before joining Bonsal, Hamby was owner and president of Hamby Tile & Stone in Dallas, Texas.

Q.E.P. Co., Inc. celebrates 25th anniversary

Twenty-five years ago, Lewis Gould started Q.E.P. in his home in New York. Today QEP is the largest flooring tools and accessories supplier worldwide. With locations in 9 countries, QEP employs over 500 people. Under brand names Q.E.P., Roberts, Q-Set and O’Tool, Q.E.P. markets approximately 3,000 specialty tools and related products used primarily for the surface preparation and installation of ceramic tile, carpet, and marble. The company sells its products to large home improvement retail centers, as well as traditional distribution outlets in 50 states and 49 countries worldwide.

Freedom Tower cornerstone

When New York Governor Pataki marked the start of construction for the new Freedom Tower on July 4th, the focus was the placement of a 20-ton piece of granite donated by Innovative Stone. The Freedom Tower, a proposed 1,776 feet structure, is part of a six-building plan to rebuild the New York City World Trade Center towers at Ground Zero. Innovative Stone’s track record in successfully responding to time-sensitive and historically significant projects was the primary reason the company was selected to source, cut, polish and engrave the new cornerstone. According to Innovative Stone CEO and founder Karen Pearse, “This cornerstone is undoubtedly the most rewarding and compelling assignment in the entire history of our company. We are enormously proud to be able to help Governor Pataki and the people of New York inaugurate the rebirth of our great city.” The “Freedom Stone,” as Innovative has named it, was unveiled July 4th by Governor Pataki. In addition to donating the stone, worth approximately $14,000, Innovative Stone supervised the cutting, polishing, engraving and leafing of the inscription; transportation of the stone to Ground Zero, and the installation. “This project is a symbol of triumph and renewal. Everyone at Innovative Stone is extremely proud and honored to be a part of this tribute to New York City’s resolve and optimism,” added Pearse who pointed out that the project could not have been accomplished without the help of many people, and singled out Innovative Stone’s project manager, Anthony Iorio, who provided round-the-clock TLC for the stone. Barton Quarries, a division of Barton Mines Company LLC, quarried the stone in the Adirondack Mountains of northern New York.

Free Guide from SGM

SGM, Inc. now offers the “Comprehensive Guide to Installation Systems for Ceramic Tile & Dimension Stone” on CD ROM. It’s the perfect resource guide for every Architect, Contractor and Do-It-Yourselfer. The complete, accurate CSI 3-part specs can be downloaded directly from the CD in Word Perfect, Microsoft Word, and ASCII formats. The CD also, contains SGM’s CAD Details that can be dragged and dropped directly into the architect’s plans. The CD makes it easy to get instant Product Information and MSDS-Material Safety Data Sheets of SGM’s products. The CD is equipped with a grout calculator. Available for both Macintosh and Windows platforms that have Internet Explorer browser. For a free copy of “SGM Comprehensive Guide to Installation Systems for Ceramic Tile & Dimension Stone” CD, please contact your local Sales Representative at 1-800-641-9247 or visit the Website: www.sgm.com to download a copy.

Custom Building works with Habitat

Custom Building Products donated time, tools, material and expertise to Habitat for Humanity of Orange County to help build five homes for very low-income families in Costa Mesa, California. The homes were completed in June and feature a total of 3,000 square feet of tile, an upgrade from Habitat’s standard practice of installing vinyl floor coverings. “Habitat for Humanity is an organization whose values and good work we have tremendous respect for and we are proud to support their efforts,” said John McMullen, senior vice president for Custom Building Products. Two of the company’s leading tile experts, John Alldredge and Kory Jones, led instructional sessions at the Costa Mesa construction site to teach Habitat volunteers the fundamentals of tile installation. Each home at the Costa Mesa project is constructed using industry-leading products from custom including WonderBoard® Backerboard, Red Guard® Waterproofing and Anti-Fracture Membrane, FlexBond® Fortified Thin-Set Mortar, Polyblend® Grout and SurfaceGard® Penetrating Sealer. Custom’s involvement with Habitat for Humanity comes from Tile Partners for Humanity.

Studio Line in Tennessee Performing Arts Center

In 1980, the Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) opened in downtown Nashville’s new James K. Polk Cultural Center. Its mission was to provide performance spaces for touring and resident artistic companies and to offer educational experiences in the arts for Tennessee school children. Now, TPAC attracts nearly 600,000 visitors a year. Last October, the first major and completed renovation of TPAC’s public spaces was unveiled. A new lobby centerpiece is a 36 foot high water feature, appropriately named “Tennessee Falls,” which welcomes guests into the performing arts complex. “The idea behind the water wall was to create an abstract replication of Tennessee’s landscape that includes mountains, foliage and water,” said architect Thom Meek of Earl Swensson & Associates, Inc. in Nashville. The most difficult aspect of the project was working within the confined space allowed for the water art. To prevent splashing, the water cascade was slightly indented and Euro-Tile’s Studio Line glass tile was used to give onlookers an impression of glittering, deep water. “Glass tile accentuated the reveals in the water feature. For wet areas, glass tile offers depth and detail. In addition, Studio Line colors allowed us to work with a natural, black hue,” said Meek. Studio Line black tile in a 2- by 2-inch size was utilized in the pool of the water wall.

 

TileDealer would love to add your Industry Insights to this column. Send your industry announcements and news to editor@tiledealer.org.


Cyberspace The next best place to put your advertising dollars
 
September 1st, 2004

 

By William Feldman September-October 2004

Who would have guessed, just a couple of years ago, that the World Wide Web would become the next great opportunity for local advertising. But it is. All around the country, consumers, including people looking for ceramic tile, have discovered the unbeatable advantages of turning to their computers and using Internet Yellow Pages to search for local services and products advertised online.

If you haven’t yet done so, consider including sponsored advertising in local Internet Yellow Pages (IYPs) as part of your marketing mix. It is a perfect match because it provides the ability to directly reach people looking locally for the very services you offer, many of whom will search only at local IYPs. (In the first quarter of 2004, Yahoo and Google, together, sold over $1.2 billion worth of advertising. And Yahoo Yellow Pages alone are getting over 20 million local Yellow Page inquiries every month.)

Compared to laboriously thumbing through a hefty print Yellow Pages-assuming one is even handy that covers the geographic region of the search-the process is quick and easy. And the searchers follow through. According to one study, about 84-percent of IYP users contacted a local business after finding it online.

At IYPs, all “sponsored businesses” show up ahead of the alphabetized (non-sponsored) “all businesses” line listings. Plus, each ad for a “sponsored business” can carry a link to the business web site and may include some brief descriptive details.

Search results positioning of sponsored listings at each online directory is purely first come/first served, with order of placement maintained until an advertiser drops off, at which time every listing under that moves up one slot. As most people start reviewing results from the top of the screen, the higher the placement the better.

Typically, there is room for 20 or 21 sponsored business listings on the first results page. After that, the rest spill over to subsequent pages, so the power of a sponsored listing diminishes.

In most geographic regions, there are relatively few ceramic tile dealers and distributors listed as “sponsored businesses” so far and so, in most geographies, there is still plenty of “top billing” still available. Plugging in the key words “ceramic tile” for a search at Yahoo Yellow Pages covering Chicago, for example, pulled up just one sponsored business atop the results list, followed by 68 all-businesses listings that ran onto the fourth page. A search using the same terms in metro Atlanta resulted in four sponsored listings and 58 line listings. The same query in Dallas drew 87 all-businesses listings and not one sponsored listing.

Try your city or metro area with those or other key words and see how high a spot you can stake out ahead of the pack.

You can sign on as a sponsored business at an IYP yourself, typically on a monthly basis. The first decision is to determine the geography the listing will cover. At most IYPs, fees are based on the reach of geographic coverage and the number of categories under which the business will be listed.

The listing process at each directory is commonly self-service, calling for input of information into dozens of fields. Each IYP requires its own data input, and there is no live person to help with the process.

To expedite the listing process and to maximize return on investment from your advertising dollars, you may prefer to use the services of an online search advertising facilitator, such as Lead Logic, that partners directly with selected IYPs and offers small and medium sized businesses a range of fixed-price advertising packages including some not available directly from the IYPs.

The physical location of the facilitator is irrelevant because the agencies generally work via phone interviews. More importantly, make sure that the agency you decide to work with has experience buying geography search terms.

Typically, the facilitator provides a skilled representative to handle your account over the phone, helping you create the listing, choose the key words to maximize response from an ad, and monitor results.

Search advertising facilitators generally provide several ways to track how many people saw your ad and how many clicked onto your web site if you have one linked, enabling you to easily assess the effectiveness of the listings and your return on investment. (Monthly fees can be as low as under $100.)

Some facilitators also offer limitless free modifications of your listing, which can be advantageous because changing key phrases in an ad can result in a higher number of viewings of a listing and a higher rate of click-thru if the listing links to your website.

At a time when consumers are converting to online searching for local products and services by leaps and bounds, for many tile dealers and distributors, staking out a spot online ahead of the competition can be a very rewarding strategy.

William Feldman is the communications liaison at Lead Logic, a rapidly growing Internet Yellow Pages facilitator that offers local businesses assistance in setting up and optimizing online advertising. For more information contact getinfo@leadlogic.com or call 866-232-8110.

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